Oh, Mark Driscoll. Just when I start to muster an inkling of compassion for you, something else emerges that tests my capacity for grace.
This time, the news is from years in the past, when Driscoll was posting to the church message boards under the pseudonym "William Wallace II." The posts, from 2001, included the following quotes from Driscoll/Wallace:
"The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis," Driscoll allegedly wrote. "Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while.
"While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering (sic) the streets looking for a house to live in," Driscoll's post continued. "Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home."
though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not. And, though women other than your wife may look like a home, to rest there would be breaking into another man's home...if you look at a man it is quite obvious that what a homeless man does not need is another man without a home."
That Mark Driscoll comes across as misogynist and homophobic in his writing is hardly newsworthy. And really, what does it matter what he wrote some 13 years ago, especially considering he has since stepped down (at least temporarily) from his role at the helm of Mars Hill?
It matters because the information is only coming to light now that the church seems to have nothing left to lose and only something to gain by distancing itself further from Driscoll.
According to various reports on the New York Daily News and The Huffington Post websites, among others, the Mars Hill network of churches, which was founded by Driscoll nearly 20 years ago, is closing campuses by the handful. Attendance and giving has dropped as much as 40 percent, and the ministry's finances are in a free-fall. So it seems to be little more than convenient timing to release still more information about Driscoll's nature, now that the church stands to gain nothing by protecting him.
Granted, it is a bold claim to suggest that the Mars Hill network protected Driscoll out of self-preserving personal interest. But consider the amount of money at stake. Aside from the multiple millions in ongoing operating revenue circulating through the ministry, Driscoll himself was a powerfully effective fundraiser. Case in point: In 2013, Driscoll presented a fundraising challenge to his followers to raise an additional $2 million for, among other things, a "Jesus Festival" which, according to publicity materials, would be "an evangelistic, outdoor outreach, aptly titled The Jesus Festival, at Marymoor Park in Seattle (that is) a family friendly event with activities for the kids, music, and amazing gospel preachers."
Though the church raised $3 million above and beyond their established operations budget, the festival never happened, and no explanation was given as to why. The page announcing the festival now returns a "404 Error" message.
Some of this may come down to fear and intimidation. After all, we know that Driscoll was known to be domineering, if not downright abusive, to fellow clergy and parishioners. Consider the fact that 21 former Mars Hill pastors have filed charges of abusive conduct against him since the most recent revelations of fiscal malfeasance came clear and he agreed to step down. So in some respect, it's fair to assume that leaders within Mars Hill remained silent for fear of reprisal.
However, they also had much more to lose than personal integrity. The Mars Hill network was in the middle of aggressive international growth plans, and clearly could raise millions for a cause, as long as Driscoll stood behind it.
To me, this is the bigger newsworthy issue, and one that all churches and religious institutions must consider with prayerful reflection. In postChristian, I note that, in many cases, we've come to worship the false god of Religion, rather than God. As such, we will justify many kinds of behaviors and beliefs that can be profoundly damaging, simply in an effort to preserve the institutions with which we are entrusted.
The problem is, once our religion matters more to us than the people they were intended to serve, or more than the God to which they are supposed to orient us, they deserve nothing less than what Mars Hill is experiencing today; the sort of downfall that Jesus prophesied for religious systems whose spirit had been hollowed out and replaced by human ambition.
Let not one stone be left on top of another.